What I’ve learned from a year of navigating the NZ healthcare system

My experience of our healthcare system to date has been pretty dang limited. The odd GP visit, gyno/birth control stuff with Family Planning, etc.

Since Spud came along, that’s changed. Now that he’s in the picture, I’ve dealt with specialists for the first time ever, and leaned on our mental health services, along with the day-to-day stuff that every baby goes through.

Free healthcare and resources for children is a blessing

I’m so glad to be able to take Spud to the doctor as often as needed and not pay a thing for appointments or prescriptions. To be able to call Plunketline any time of day or night for advice. Money shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to any child’s health.

Perhaps most of all, I am so grateful to have been able to access prescription formula that finally resolved Spud’s reflux and other digestive issues, and to be able to feed him in the way he needs. It came rather late, but better late than never. The alternative would have been living off a tiny handful of foods and being miserable; having a somewhat restricted diet and a somewhat unhappy baby (and thus an unhappy me); or possibly sourcing elemental formula some other way at a cost of hundreds of dollars a week. Food intolerances, get f-ed!

But it is very, very hard to get taken seriously

I’ve learned the hard way that I need to be an advocate for my son. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and know when things are not right.

I am thankful he does not have anaphylactic reactions to anything. However, this has made it difficult to get his issues taken seriously. Skin, gut, poop, and temperament symptoms just aren’t as compelling, even though they are still horrifically distressing for us. And through social media I’ve seen much more harrowing stories of other mums struggling to get the medical attention their babies deserve.

I’m so glad I opted to get health insurance for him, as I think trying to navigate the public system and get referrals would have broken me. I’ve seen stories of mums with much worse problems struggle to get their babies seen. At least I was able to just book in direct with specialists and get Spud in that way.

Mental health matters and we need more in this area

I’m stoked that mental health is getting more funding.

I have been so grateful for the services I’ve been able to access when I was at breaking point.

I’ve used the free 1737 helpline, and had someone sit on the phone with me while I walked and breathed and tried to reorient myself for close to an hour.

I’ve been able to make use of free counselling sessions at my local women’s centre.

I used my work EAP services before my redundancy went into effect, although I found that particular counsellor … not the best.

While I had to pay to see my doctor to rule out post natal depression, they were pretty clear to me that I should come in any time to talk and that subsequent appointments could be covered under mental health funding.

(It’ not PND. What it is, was situational stress and external factors, and actually serious marital issues – an ongoing story for further down the track. Bit frustrating to be treated like a hysterical woman, to be honest.)

Social media is a lifeline when all else fails

Social media has been a double edged sword during this time. An addictive time waster? Absolutely. But also a source of support from all corners? 100%.

Support from people I know and people I don’t. My work crew (the four of us who popped out babies within a month of each other). My friends who had kids before I did. Members of various Facebook groups going through their own stuff, sometimes similar issues, whom I learned a ton from, and felt a bit less alone in the process. When I was losing my mind trying to figure out Spud’s food issues with little support from T. Exhausted from dealing with a baby who wasn’t sleeping, was super unsettled, had chronic gas, constipation, and eczema.  He’d be up at night crying, inconsolable, and I’d be crying along with him. He couldn’t sleep because of his digestive issues and I couldn’t do more to help (and worst of all, was the cause of those issues via my diet). Lately, his sleep’s been pretty haywire and I think it’s because his eczema is getting out of control. Right now it covers almost all of his back, and I’m going to try book him in with a dermatologist who comes highly recommended in a local eczema FB support group.

Overall, I can’t really complain too much. I’ve managed to get us enrolled at a doctor that is literally around the corner from home, and we’ve had a good Plunket nurse though that will be changing next year. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as we continue to navigate vaccinations, dental care, vision checks and more!

3 thoughts on “What I’ve learned from a year of navigating the NZ healthcare system

  • Reply SavvyFinancialLatina September 25, 2019 at 01:36

    Hi NZ Muze, glad to hear from you. Always great to read your stories. First of all, what you are going through, the life stuff is way better to read than general money posts. You are going through life. Real life. The lessons you are learning as you are becoming a mother are important. I think a lot of people are afraid to share the nitty gritty of becoming a mother. But if you don’t share you don’t get the support you need.

    Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. There are people out there who do want to help.

    I’m glad your baby is doing better with formula.

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 3, 2019 at 05:26


    Your hands have been ever so full.

    “Bit frustrating to be treated like a hysterical woman, to be honest.”
    UGH I hate that tendency in the medical profession – I grew quite sick of it early on.

    You know I’m here to listen if you need an ear WRT the marital issues.

  • Reply Sarah October 9, 2019 at 14:56

    That’s so great that there is mental health funding – and that your doctors encouraged you to use it! Mine were mostly concerned with whether or not I thought I’d hurt the kiddos, and when I said I never considered it they considered their job done. (This is despite the fact that I actually did have quite a lot of anxiety and thoughts of harming myself… not a question on the screenings!)

    I’m sorry T has not been helpful (perhaps an understatement). I think having a supportive partner makes a huge difference in how the stresses of a newborn can compound on themselves. Hopefully it’s feeling more manageable now… at least you can see that your instincts are more often correct than the supposed experts!

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